Spider-Man: Homecoming Is Quirky Teen Comedy Meets Superhero Movie

You have to appreciate a movie with a double entendre in its title. If you’ve seen Spider-Man: Homecoming, you know that the title partly references the film’s climax, in which Peter Parker attends his high school’s homecoming dance. But there’s also some cheekiness behind the name when you know that this Spider-Man movie was the first collaborative effort between Sony (which holds the rights to Marvel’s Spider-Man properties) and Marvel Studios. Because after Sony made a hot mess of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (and got into a shit ton of debt), they made a deal with Kevin Feige (the man behind Marvel Studios’ MCU) and brought Spidey into the fold for a few films. So, in a sense, Homecoming is Spider-Man coming home…to Marvel.

As far as the Sony/Marvel thing goes, if you’re interested in filmmaking politics and want to learn more about Sony, Marvel Studios, and how they’re sharing characters/properties, check out this article from Collider. Otherwise, TL;DR…Tom Holland’s Spider-Man was in Captain America: Civil War, he’ll have his own films with Sony, and he’ll definitely appear in The Avengers: Infinity War. Now, let’s dive deeper into Spider-Man: Homecoming

Sometimes, rebooting a series that was only released a few years ago fails miserably (See: The Mummy). Other times, it’s so good that it almost makes you forget that the other movie(s) existed. I don’t know about you guys, but Tom Holland’s take on Peter Parker/Spider-Man made me forget Spider-Man movies existed before Homecoming (Yes, that includes the very good Spider-Man 2). Take a hike, Tobey Garfield and Andrew Maguire, or whatever the hell your names are. This is the adorable brainiac pipsqueak version of Spider-Man I want.

You know what else helps this reboot not suck? IT DOESN’T REHASH THE ORIGIN STORY. We know Uncle Ben dies. We know Peter is bitten by a spider (or, in some versions, creates his own suit and webs). We don’t need to see it again and again (*cough* Batman). It was so refreshing to watch a Spider-Man movie where, for once, we could just jump right in and get down to business. After five movies (and tons of comic books), we all should know who Peter Parker/Spider-Man is by now, so we don’t need 30 minutes of backstory to set up the movie.

Tom Holland as Spider-Man

So what’s going on with Spider-Man nowadays? Well, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is trying to balance high school and the life of a superhero with the assistance of mentor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and chauffeur-turned-babysitter Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau). After helping Iron Man during his fight against Captain America in Civil War, Peter wants to play a bigger role with the Avengers, but Tony asks him to be patient and stick to ground-level issues in New York City. When Peter comes across alien weapons dealer Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) in his neighborhood, he sees it as his chance to prove he can play with the big boys.

Homecoming does plenty of things well, but I think the two it does best are making Peter feel like a kid and showing ground-level consequences of what happened in The Avengers.

Regarding the first point, the other Spider-Man movies regularly glossed over the fact that Peter Parker, though not your average teenager, is still a teenager. I’m not just talking about having friends and crushes, getting homework, and occasionally getting into trouble with teachers and principals. I mean, he thinks and acts like a teenager. Homecoming is the first time where I’ve felt like Peter wasn’t making “superhero” decisions. More often than not, his decisions were dumb and short-sighted because he was overly eager to prove himself, get recognition, or have a sense of control over his life—you know, that thing teenagers do A LOT.

Because of this, Peter grew as a character beyond the tired lessons of how to be a better, faster, stronger superhero or how to defeat evil with good. He learned humility, patience, and perhaps even a little about priorities (i.e., school, friends, family, etc.). Though Tony Stark wasn’t around as much as I would’ve liked (I get it—it’s not his movie), you can tell this is where his mentoring came into play. Tony learned these lessons since becoming Iron Man, and now he’s sharing them with the next generation to groom a better generation. When you think about it this way, this isn’t a superhero story. It’s a coming-of-age story.

Tom Holland and Jacob Batalon in Spider-Man: Homecoming

Now, about what happened in The Avengers, we’ve seen the fallout come up in Avengers: Age of Ultron and Civil War, where the Avengers themselves face the consequences of their actions. But beyond Marvel TV series like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Daredevil, and Jessica Jones (which I imagine a lot of people don’t keep up with as much as the films), we don’t get much insight into how the Battle of New York affected the ordinary people who live in NYC. You know, people like Michael Keaton’s Adrian Toomes (a.k.a. the man who becomes Vulture).

The movie starts by showing Adrian cleaning up the battle damage, a contracting job that will take years to complete and provide security for him and his team. That is, until a government agency (probably S.H.I.E.L.D) boots them off the project because they need to collect the alien technology. Pissed about the time, money, and resources invested in the job, Adrian and his team steal some of the technology and create an extremely profitable underground weapons dealing business. Not only is this good villain setup (because you see he was a normal guy who got screwed while trying to support his family), but it also shows how the chaos and destruction from the bigger picture “world saving” creates everyday issues on the ground.

Vulture as a villain is okay. There’s an overarching superhero movie villain issue that I think this genre just can’t shake. But by comparison, he’s better than most Marvel film villains in that he actually has a backstory that makes you sympathize with him, and his existence is adjacent to Peter Parker, so he’s not just some dude who drops out of the sky and is like HELLO, I’M HERE TO KILL EVERYONE. It helps, too, that Vulture is played by Michael Keaton (*insert yet another Birdman joke*). Michael Keaton elevates all material just by being Michael Keaton. Is it the crazy eyes? It might be the crazy eyes. Let’s just say I was definitely holding my breath during the scene where Adrian confronts Peter about his identity. Amazing.

All right. I’m going to wrap this up, but I’ll leave you with some stray notes/observations:

  • Captain America (Chris Evans) makes a cameo in high school instructional videos that cover everything from gym class fitness tests to detention. And they’re awesome.
  • Keep your eye out for a hilarious Ferris Bueller’s Day Off sequence.
  • I love the ongoing joke about how hot Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) is.
  • Your suspicion about the character Zendaya plays is correct.
  • They got Gwyneth Paltrow to make a two-minute cameo. That had to have cost at least $500,000, right? Though, if I’m being honest, I’ve missed Pepper Potts.
  • There are two post-credits scenes: one in the middle, one at the very end.

Spider-Man: Homecoming: A

Listen to my review of Spider-Man: Homecoming on “Pat & JT in the Morning” here (at 8:37).

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